Five Years at the Aleph Blog!

When Jim Cramer asked me to write for RealMoney, it was a dream come true, and I didn’t ask for it.  After year of writing him on bond issues, he told me I wrote better than most he knew.  Trouble was, in 2003, I had a new job at a hedge fund, and was doing well at it.  It took some doing, but eventually my boss (a good guy, generally) agreed that I could do it, and my public writing on investing began.

Writing for RealMoney, I always felt a little odd.  As I do at Aleph Blog, it is my goal to help you think better, not shovel “buy this now” ideas at you.  I wrote more comments relative to articles than any other writer; I was told that I was RealMoney’s most profitable writer, because people re-read my articles & comments.  Oddly, I had less feedback from Cramer than when I was an e-mailer.  That said, if I ever e-mailed him, which I did rarely 1-2 times/year, he would always give me a short gracious response.  Long before I actually did so, he encouraged me to start my own asset management shop, when I asked his advice in the matter.

Roughly one year before I left RealMoney (which I did unceremoniously, never said goodbye), I started Aleph Blog.  I did it for greater freedom of expression.  I also never read RealMoney anymore, and as such, did not feel the compulsion to contribute to a publication that I had loved.

I wanted to write more article-length pieces about issues that were deeper to investing, and not simple buy/sell this asset pieces.  So, beginning with the Shanghai Market crisis in February 2007, we were off and running.  Most of my initial pieces were shorter; I would write two per evening, six days a week.  That morphed into one longer piece once an evening.

It was my goal to try to take my generalist experiences and turn them into something valuable for the general public.  I did not want to be an “all crisis, all the time” blog.  When the crisis was hot, or promising to be so, I would write.  And though I have distinct views on how economic policy should be done, that is not what defines me.  We have to act and live in the face of suboptimal policies.

There are many pieces and series that I could never have done at RealMoney that I have done at Aleph Blog.  As a sampler:

  • Education of a Corporate Bond Manager (12 parts)
  • Flavors of Insurance (12 parts)
  • The Rules (30 parts so far, and may go to 60 if I do them all)
  • A Day in the Life of John Davidson (my one attempt at fiction, 8 parts)
  • Most of my articles dealing with flaws in institutional investment strategies, accounting rules, etc.
  • My occasional rants on how I thank neoclassical economics is wrong, and sometimes, very wrong.
  • Articles on accounting rules and the effect on investing.  In some circles, this is (wide eyes here) an accounting blog. (I’ve never taken an accounting course in my life.  I’ve had to create accounting statements for 12-18 years of my life corporately.  I have read through accounting standards, and theories on accounting polices repeatedly.)
  • Many of my quantitative posts they would have blinked at, and said, “Uh, who will benefit from that?”  My view is, you may not get any initial benefit from such a piece, but if you get some idea into how the markets interact, you may be better prepared when things get weird.
  • All of the book reviews. That was not an early goal of the blog, but has become 10% of what I do.
  • The interactions I have had with agencies of the US Government.
  • The (7 part) first blogger summit at the US Treasury.  It was a pleasure to meet Steven Randy Waldman, Yves Smith, Kid Dynamite, Accrued Interest, John Jansen, Michael Panzner, and Tyler Cowen.

That said, RealMoney gave me more room to run than most columnists.  They rarely turned down my ideas, but they did want me to become more “practical,” and crank out more investment ideas.  The hard thing for me was/is, I have no lack of investment ideas/opinions, but the response I get to giving them is far less civil than sharing ideas on how to think about investing.  To that end, I appreciate Tom Brakke, who does that in a very structured way.  We had tea together last June or so, and I started to write about it but could never get it out.

In late summer of last year, Josh Brown came through the area, and we had lunch together.  Great guy; a ton of fun and ideas.  A man like him in some ways is my pal Cody Willard, who is a fountain of ideas and connections.  Add in James Altucher, who is prolific, and has been willing to give me time on two occasions.

Last fall I had a late dinner with Miguel Barbosa of Simoleon Sense.  Very bright guy; great conversation.  During the same trip to Chicago, got to talk with Eric Falkenstein for a few hours.  Wish I could have met up with Tadas Viskanta then; maybe another time.

Yet that reminds me of those I interact with.  Though I have never physically met them, I appreciate Barry Ritholtz, Jeff Miller, Felix Salmon, Bruce Krasting, Howard Simons, Roger Nusbaum, Gonzalo Lira, Michael Pettis, Victor Shih, Carl Walter, jck at Alea, the crew at FT Alphaville, and more.

There was the Aleph Blog lunch in late 2010, and the relationships that engendered.  I am very grateful for all of the relationships that blogging has created for me, whether close or distant.

And, with all of the virtuality of blogging, the relationships are what make it for me.  I am happy to write bits on the sites of others, and give them content.  I appreciate those that I read and comment on.

And to the many who have written me, though I may have never responded, thanks for writing me.  I get fifty+ messages per day and can’t keep up.  So, thanks to all have interacted with me, that’s what has made it valuable to me.

PS — If I forgot you, my apologies, I have so many interactions that it is difficult to keep track of them all.